Sentence Definition and Structure
What is a sentence, and how do we structure English sentences? In this grammar lesson, we will learn the meaning of an English sentence and its elements subject, verb and object. We will learn how we can combine them to make a meaningful sentence.
Definition of a Sentence
A group of words containing a verb that makes complete thought is called a sentence.
A sentence must give enough information. The sense expressed by the sentence may be either in question, statement, instruction, or exclamation form. A sentence must start with a capital letter, and a punctuation mark (full stop, exclamation mark, etc.) must go at the end of every sentence.
Study the blow groups of words.
- at the door,
- the extremely intelligent girl
- was watching movies all the night
We can see that these three groups of words do not make a complete thought, so these are not sentences at all. They are called phrases.
Now examine the group of words.
Ahmad is a doctor.
This group of words makes complete sense, and therefore we called it a sentence. In this sentence, Ahmad is the subject. He is a person the sentence is talking about. The word “is” is the part of predicate and indicates that Ahmad is in the “state of being” a doctor. Ahmad and doctor express the same person the verb “is” is a linking verb join them together.
Below are some more examples of sentences. The underlined words are verbs.
- The dogs bark.
- He invites me.
- Is he coming with us?
- Get out of my way!
- She refuses.
She wants to go with us.
The word “sentence” is derived from “sentenia,” a Latin word that means an “opinion” or a thought.
Structure of a Complete Sentence
The sentence structure refers to the arrangement of words in a grammatically meaningful sentence. The structure of a sentence tells us its different parts and their function.
In English, two types of words usually combine and are arranged in a specified order which makes a sentence. These two fragments of a sentence are called the subject and verb. Every sentence can be split into two parts subject and predicate. The subject can be a noun or a pronoun, and all the words and phrases modify it. The predicate part includes the main and auxiliary verbs with all other terms that do not make any part of the sentence’s subject.
The Subject of a Sentence
A performer (person or thing) of the action denoted by the verb is called subject. A noun, pronoun, adjective used as a noun, a noun phrase, or a noun clause can stand the subject of the sentence.
- They are washing the clothes.
- The older man has no children.
- Saleem and Javid are fighting.
- It is raining.
Not every sentence is as simple as these are. For example, look at the below sentence.
The three fast players run quickly across the open field.
This sentence consists of five parts of speech, i.e., noun, adjective, verb, adverb, and preposition. This sentence is talking about players but not any players- The three fast players. This whole part of the sentence, including the two adjectives, is called the complete subject. If we use the noun players alone, then the subject is called bare subject.
The subject of interrogative, exclamatory, and optative sentences does not go at the start of the sentence.
- Is he going to school today?
- Where are the children?
- How stupid she is!
When we move the subject from the front position to a place in the predicate, the pronoun “it” usually takes the subject’s position.
- What they did doesn’t matter. (It doesn’t matter what they did.)
- That he performed well in a competition is well known. (It’s well known that he performed well in a competition.)
Note: The Subject of a sentence cannot be a part of a prepositional phrase.
The Difference Between Simple and Compound Subject
When a single noun or pronoun is used as a subject, it is called a simple subject.
A sentence that contains more than one subject often connected by conjunctions is called a compound subject. The nouns or pronouns which make a compound subject may be either singular or plural.
Simple subject: I hate him.
Compound Subject: Rice and fried chicken are famous.
Compound Subject: Rice and fried chicken are famous.
In the first sentence, the pronoun ‘I’ isn’t attached with any other subject noun or pronoun; therefore, it is a simple subject.
In the second sentence, the words rice and fried chicken are the compound subject.
Like a simple subject, each subject in a compound subject can be modified and expanded by adding adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases.
The Simple and Compound Verb/Predicate
The principal word or group of words that constitute the predicate part of a sentence is called the simple verb.
The teachers and students have completed the project in two weeks.
A verb consists of two or more verbs connected by conjunction and asserts something about the same subject is called a compound verb.
The school head handles attendance and enforces discipline.
The predicate consists of two verbs, handles and enforces. So, it is a compound verb or compound predicate.
Everything in a sentence that does not a part of the sentence’s subject is called a predicate. The verb and object or modifiers relating to it make the predicate. The main verb of a sentence is also called the bare predicate.
It comes from Latin “praedicare,” which means to assert. It is a word or group of words that assert something about the subject. In the below sentences, the predicate parts are written in bold.
- He attempted all questions.
- Ahmad and Saleem are best friends.
- I am tired of doing this.
- The boy put the keys on the table.
- They are eating their dinner.
- Has he ever been to China?
- During the winter season, I bought two pairs of shoes.
The predicate of a sentence may appear in two parts, as shown in the last two sentences. The subject is usually not mentioned in imperative sentences. In this case, the sentence consists of the predicate part only.
The Direct and Indirect Object in a Sentence
The object of a sentence can be direct or indirect. The direct object denotes the person or thing directly affected by the action of the verb.
An indirect object is a group of words in the object place that denotes the person or thing to whom or for whom something is given or done. Indirect objects always come between the direct object and the verb.
- They invited us. (Direct object)
- He goes to school. (Indirect Object)
Adverbs or adverb phrases can also be a part of the sentence. It comes in three possible places in a sentence, i.e., before the subject, after the object, Or in the middle of auxiliary and the main verb.
- Yesterday we met with his parents.
- At the end of January, all the educational institutions were closed.
- The babies were sleeping on chairs in the room.
- The students have already prepared the presentation.
- We will sometimes go on a walk in the evening.
Now there are four cases.
- A sentence can be made without an object.
He played well.
Here “well” is an adverb it modifies the meaning of the predicate part of the sentence.
2. A sentence composed of an indirect object
I go to school.
3. A sentence that takes a direct object only.
I love him.
4. A sentence with both direct and indirect objects
He teaches me English.
From all these cases, we can say that every sentence consists of two parts the subject and the predicate. A sentence may or may not contain the object; we can make a sentence without an object.
Subject and Object Complement
Study these sentences.
- He is going to school.
- These trees were being grown for timber.
- The older man asks for help.
We see that the subject of a sentence may be composed of one or more than one word. For example, in sentence one, the subject consists of one word, i.e., the pronoun “he.” In sentence three, the subject consists of three words.
Similarly, the predicate of a sentence may compose of one or more words. For example, in the first sentence, the predicate consists of four words. In sentence three, the predicate consists of three words.
If the subject or predicate of a sentence consists of more than one word, there must be one word in the complete subject or predicate, which is more important than the other words. This important word in the entire subject is called the subject word, and the essential word in the complete predicate is called the Predicate-word.
Note: The essential word in the complete subject is always a noun or pronoun, and, in the predicate, it is always a verb.
A single word or group of several words that say something about the subject or the predicate is called complement. The term complement refers to things that make something else complete.
Subject Complement: The complement of a subject is everything without the subject word.
- Ahmad was an intelligent student.
- The flock (of birds) was flying in the sky.
In sentence 1, the noun Ahmad is the subject. The verb “was” is followed by the phrase an intelligent student, which describes the Subject, Ahmad. The phrase an intelligent student is called the subject complement.
In sentence 2, the flock is the subject. Of birds is a prepositional adjective phrase that describes what kind of flock.
What is Predicate Nominative And Predicate Adjective?
Subject complements can be divided into two types predicate nominative and predicate adjective.
A predicate nominative is a noun or pronoun complement that refers to the same subject in a sentence. It can be simple (consisting of one word) or compound (two or more words joined by conjunctions).
Hakeem is the tallest boy. (Boy refers to the same subject Hakeem)
An adjective complement that modifies the noun or the pronoun act as the verb’s subject is called a predicate adjective.
His clothes are dirty. (Dirty is a predicate adjective that modifies the subject)
Similarly, the complement of the predicate is everything without the verb. For example, if we say ‘he takes. Here we have a subject he and verb take, but it cannot express a complete thought. In this case, we need some more words to add to the verb to complete the meaning. For example, we can add an English grammar lesson to the verb. The sentence becomes He takes an English grammar lesson now expresses a complete thought.
The words usually acted the predicate compliments are direct and indirect objects, predicate adjective and nominative, simple adverbs, prepositional phrases,and clauses.
It is important to note that only nouns, pronouns, and adjectives can be used as a compliment. An adverb modifying the verb cannot act as a compliment.
For example, Mrs. Ahmad is here. The word here is an adverb in this sentence that modifies the verb is. Therefore, it is not a compliment.
My brother is a teacher.
He is young.
He is young.
In the first sentence, the noun teacher and in the second sentence, the adjective young are complements.
How to Find the Real Subject and Verb or Predicate?
To find the actual subject or subject word, look for a noun or pronoun before the verb as it is almost going before it. The sentence’s subject can also be found by using the question word who when a subject is a person. When the subject is not a person, use the question word what. To find the predicate word, look for a verb in the complete predicate.
For instance, in sentence two, the subject word is the noun “trees,” and the word “these” is the complement.
In sentence 3, ask yourself the question who asks for help. The answer is the older man. Hence the subject of that sentence is the older man.
The subject of an interrogative sentence can be found by turning the sentence into a statement form.
In which year did he complete his degree?
You did complete your degree in which year. (Here, the subject in this sentence is you)
Is his brother taking admission this year?
We rewrite this sentence in statement form as.
His brother / is taking admission this year.
Now, the subject is going at the beginning, and the words following the subject are the predicate.